a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were reports indicating officials or other agents under the command of the Ministry of Public Security or provincial public security departments committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including reports of at least seven deaths implicating law enforcement officers on duty. In most cases, authorities either provided little information on investigations into the deaths or stated the deaths were the result of suicide or medical problems. Authorities sometimes harassed and intimidated families who questioned the police determination of cause of death. In a small number of cases, the government held police officials responsible, typically several years after the death. Despite guidance from the Supreme People’s Court to charge police officers responsible for deaths in custody with murder, such officers typically faced lesser charges. Family members of individuals who died in police custody reported harassment and abuse by local authorities.
On April 22, Nguyen Van Quang was taken from prison to a hospital in Nghe An and died there several hours later while under police guard. Local authorities conducted an investigation and concluded that Quang died of a brain infection. Nghe An authorities claimed that Quang showed signs of illness in early April and that he received proper treatment and care while in custody. Quang’s family, however, said they visited Quang and found he was doing well in early April and denied Quang had any record of health issues. The family told their lawyer and the media that Quang’s body showed bruises on his chest and head and a broken rib.
On April 4, two former police officers, Nguyen Tuan Anh and Bui Ngoc Nghia, in O Mon district, Can Tho province, received eight years in prison on charges of “deliberately inflicting injuries to a person in custody.” In August 2018 the two officers beat Nguyen Chi Hieu near the local police station, claiming that Hieu had been uncooperative following a traffic stop. Hieu was hospitalized and died three days later. The court also ordered the officers to pay Hieu’s family 350 million VND ($15,100) as compensation.
In January, Radio Free Asia blogger Truong Duy Nhat disappeared from Bangkok, Thailand, one day after initiating a claim for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Several local and international NGOs reported that Vietnamese and Thai authorities worked together to detain and return Nhat to Vietnam. Nhat’s wife reported that she received no word about her husband’s whereabouts until March 15, when she received an anonymous phone call letting her know that Nhat was in the T16 detention center north of Hanoi. Ministry of Public Security officials stated that Nhat’s arrest was for “causing financial loss to the State” and was unrelated to his human rights advocacy. Nhat’s first attorney was charged with financial crimes after taking the case and was therefore ineligible to represent Nhat, who retained a new attorney. Nhat’s trial has yet to be formally scheduled.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution prohibits torture, violence, coercion, corporal punishment or any form of treatment harming the body and health, or the honor and dignity of persons detained or incarcerated.
The law prohibits physical abuse of detainees, but suspects commonly reported mistreatment and torture by police, plainclothes security officials, and compulsory drug-detention center personnel during arrest, interrogation, and detention. Police, prosecutors, and government oversight agencies seldom conducted investigations of specific reports of mistreatment. Some activists reported receiving death threats from plainclothes individuals they believed were associated with the government.
Abusive treatment was not limited to activists or persons involved in politics. Police frequently used excessive force when making an arrest. On March 7, local police invited Pham Hoang Tu to the An Dien commune police station, Thanh Phu district, Ben Tre province, to ask him about a gambling debt that Tu claimed he did not owe. Nguyen Van Lam, a district police official, asked Tu some questions before allegedly beating him in the face, chest, and head. Other local police officials who were drinking nearby reportedly joined in beating and intimidating Tu. The police officials reportedly forced Tu to wash his shirt and made him sign in a document stating that he was not beaten before releasing him. Tu claims to suffer from headaches and trauma months after the beating. In June, following complaints by Tu’s family, the district police acknowledged the beating and “reprimanded” three police officials involved in the incident.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions varied substantially by prison and province. In most cases they were austere but generally not life threatening. Insufficient diet and unclean food, overcrowding, lack of access to potable water, and poor sanitation remained serious problems.
Physical Conditions: By law pretrial detainees are to be held separately from convicted prisoners. In practice, media and activists reported there were cases in which detainees were held in the same cells with convicted prisoners. Authorities generally held men and women separately, with some reported exceptions in local detention centers. Although authorities generally held juveniles in an area separate from adults, on rare occasions, authorities reportedly held juveniles in detention with adults for short periods. Authorities sometimes kept children in prison with their mothers until age three, according to a former political prisoner.
In 2017 the Ministry of Public Security released a five-year review of its execution of criminal judgements covering 2011-16, the most recent period for which such information was available. The report acknowledged a lack of quality infrastructure, and that overcrowding was an ongoing challenge. The report stated the average floor space was 5.44 square feet per prisoner, compared with the standard requirement of 6.6 square feet per prisoner.
Former prisoners reported police beat individuals in custody with books to prevent visible bruising. Prison officials failed to prevent prisoner-on-prisoner violence. On March 19, prisoner Nguyen Tien Anh killed his cellmate Tran Van Loi with a knife in the Xuan Ha (Ha Tinh province) prison canteen following a drunken fight.
Some former and serving prisoners and their families reported prisoners received insufficient, poor-quality food. Family members continued to make credible claims prisoners received extra food or other preferential treatment by paying bribes to prison officials. Prisoners had access to basic health care, although there were instances of officials preventing family members from providing medication and of prison clinics not reviewing prisoners’ predetention health records.
Authorities placed prisoners in solitary confinement for standard periods of three months. Prison authorities reportedly also placed some transgender individuals in solitary confinement due to confusion regarding whether to place them with men or women.
Administration: There was no active system of prison ombudsmen with whom prisoners could file complaints, but according to the law, the National Assembly, people’s councils, and the CPV’s Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF)–an umbrella group that oversees the country’s government-sponsored social organizations–oversee the execution of criminal judgments. Ministry of Public Security reported that prisoners may file formal complaints with a prosecutor’s office. Since these complaints must first go through the same prison officials who are often the focus of the complaint, however, most observers considered this a flawed process.
Authorities limited prisoners to one family visit of no longer than an hour per month and generally permitted family members to provide various items, including money, supplemental food, and bedding to prisoners. Catholic prisoners and their families reported that priests were not allowed to visit detainees for confession. Media reported that, at times, monks from the officially recognized Vietnam Buddhist Sangha were invited to detention centers to talk about Buddhism, instruct Zen practice, or lead services. On August 4, the patriarch of Pho Chieu Pagoda and many Buddhist dignitaries in Hai Phong City led a Vu Lan mass with the participation of 250 inmates at Xuan Nguyen Detention Center, Thuy Nguyen district, Hai Phong City. Earlier, the prison officials also allowed the pagoda to place a Statue of the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin) in the detention compound and allowed inmates to conduct services before the statue every month. Some Protestant pastors reported that they were occasionally invited to rehabilitation centers to share their faith-based rehabilitation experience.
Family members of current and former prisoners reported certain prison authorities did not permit prisoners to have religious texts in detention, despite provisions in the law for providing access to such materials. Le Dinh Luong, for example, did not have access to a Bible, while Ho Duc Hoa did, and “Pure” Hoa Hao Buddhist Bui Van Trung Tham was allowed to have a censored version of the “Pure” Hoa Hao Buddhist scripture.
Independent Monitoring: Local and regional International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials neither requested nor carried out prison visits during the year.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution states a decision by a court or prosecutor is required for the arrest of any individual, except in the case of a “flagrant offense.” The law allows the government to arrest and detain persons “until the investigation finishes” for particularly serious crimes, including national security cases. Those detained, excepting on political grounds, may question the legality of their detention with the arresting authority, but there is no right for the detainee or a representative to challenge the lawfulness of an arrest before a court.
Authorities routinely subjected activists and suspected criminals to de facto house arrest without charge.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
By law police generally require a warrant issued by a prosecutor (the People’s Procuracy) to arrest a suspect, although in some cases a decision from a court is required. The criminal code also allows police to “hold an individual” without a warrant in “urgent circumstances,” such as when evidence existed a person was preparing to commit a crime or when police caught a person in the act of committing a crime. Human rights lawyers shared the view that detention without warrants is a common practice. Lawyers and human rights NGOs reported that, in many cases, police officers “invited” individuals to present themselves at police stations without being given a clear rationale. These individuals might be held for hours and questioned or requested to write or sign reports. Many such cases had nothing to do with political or sensitive circumstances. There were, nonetheless, numerous instances where activists were taken into custody by plainclothes individuals without an arrest warrant.
Police may hold a suspect for 72 hours without an arrest warrant. In such cases, a prosecutor must approve or disapprove the arrest within 12 hours of receiving notice from police. In practice, especially in politically motivated cases, these procedures were not applied consistently and strictly. In the case of blogger Truong Duy Nhat (see section 1.b., above), various NGOs reported that, after Nhat’s return to Vietnam, authorities held him incommunicado in a detention center in Hanoi, announcing his detention only in June without detailing how or when he was arrested. According to Nhat’s original lawyer, police conducted a search of his house that same day although the search warrant was dated January 16. Nhat’s family was able to see him for the first time on June 20, about six months after he was reported missing.
The law requires video or audio recording of interrogations during the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication. In cases in which video or audio recording is not possible, interrogation is only allowed if the person being interrogated agrees. The law requires this provision to be applied consistently nationwide by January 1, 2020.
By law the People’s Procuracy must issue a decision to initiate a formal criminal investigation of a detainee and notify the accused or their legal representative within three days of arrest; otherwise, police must release the suspect. The law allows the People’s Procuracy to request the court with jurisdiction over the case to grant two additional three-day extensions for a maximum of nine days’ detention before an investigation begins.
The criminal code reduces the time limit for detention while under investigation, including for “serious” and “particularly serious” crimes. For the latter, an individual may be held for 20 months. The law, however, allows the Supreme People’s Procuracy to detain an individual “until the investigation finishes” in cases of “particularly serious crimes,” including national security cases. Only after the investigation is completed are suspects formally charged.
While a suspect is detained, authorities may deny family visits; they routinely denied such visits for those arrested under national security and related laws, such as laws against “disrupting public order.”
The law allows for bail in the form of deposited money or valuable property as a measure to replace temporary detention, but it was seldom granted.
The law requires authorities to inform persons held in custody, accused of a crime, or charged with a crime, of their legal rights, including the right to an attorney within three days of arrest. By law the government is supposed to assign a lawyer for a criminal defendant, if he or she or their lawful representatives do not seek the assistance of defense counsels in cases where: 1) he or she is charged with offenses punishable by death as the highest penalty as prescribed by the penal code or, 2) he or she is minor or person with physical disabilities or is deemed mentally incompetent. The government will also provide lawyers for certain cases, including cases against: 1) persons deemed to have made significant contributions to Vietnam; 2) members of poor or near-poor households; 3) members of ethnic minorities in remote and poor areas; and 4) minors. The government may also provide lawyers in certain cases where the defendant or their family include: Victims of agent orange, elderly or disabled persons, minors, victims of domestic violence, victims of trafficking in persons, and HIV-infected persons.
Although the law affords detainees access to counsel from the time of detention, authorities used bureaucratic delays to deny timely access to legal counsel. In many cases, authorities only permitted attorneys access to their clients or the evidence against them immediately before the case went to trial, denying them adequate time to prepare their cases.
In cases investigated under national security laws, the government routinely used bureaucratic delays to prohibit access by defense lawyers to clients until after officials completed the investigation and formally charged the suspect with a crime.
There were no standard legal or administrative requirements as to when suspects must be brought before a judicial officer. Depending on the seriousness and nature of the offenses, these time limits are variable. The maximum is 20 months. In cases of particularly serious crimes, however, including national security cases, the law allows detention “until the completion of the investigation.”
Detainees have an undefined right to notify family members of their arrest but, although police generally informed families of detainees’ whereabouts, the Ministry of Public Security held a number of blogger and activist detainees suspected of national security violations incommunicado.
As of November no charges had been issued in the case of blogger Huynh Thi To Nga, who frequently shared views critical of the government on her Facebook account. According to her family, Nga disappeared in late January; they did not receive any formal confirmation of her whereabouts until April. Her family told independent media that as of late October authorities continued to deny requests for family visitation, stating Nga remained under investigation. To date no charges have been filed in her case.
Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly for political activists and individuals protesting land seizures or other injustices, remained a serious problem. Activists reported Ministry of Public Security officials assaulted political prisoners to extract confessions or used other means to induce written confessions, including instructing fellow prisoners to assault them or making promises of better treatment. Some activists also reported that authorities used routine police interrogations to obtain incriminating information concerning other human rights activists.
Authorities subjected many religious and political activists to varying degrees of arbitrary detention in their residences, in vehicles, at local police stations, at “social protection centers,” or at local government offices. Officials also frequently detained human rights activists upon their return from overseas trips. Such detentions were most common around and during events that were likely to draw significant public attention.
Prior to the February 25-28 United States-North Korea summit in Hanoi, approximately one dozen activists and bloggers who had gathered in public spaces or along main streets, but who were not actually demonstrating, were taken into custody at local Hanoi police stations and held without charge for several hours prior to being released. On March 27, the Security Investigation Agency under the Ministry of Public Security held activist Cao Vinh Thinh at its headquarters for more than 10 hours to question her about her environmental activism. In March, Thinh and her group Green Tree released a documentary titled, “Don’t be Afraid,” which focused on activism following the illegal discharge of toxic waste at the Formosa Ha Tinh steel plant in 2016. The spill caused a massive fish die-off in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Pretrial Detention: The allowable time for temporary detention during an investigation, equivalent to pretrial detention, varies depending on the offense: three months for less serious offenses, 16 months for the most serious cases, and 20 months for “especially serious” crimes. These limits were exceeded with impunity, and police and prosecutors used these lengthy periods of pretrial detention to punish or to pressure human rights defenders to confess to crimes, activists said. By law authorities must provide justification for detention beyond the initial four months, but there were reports indicating that court officials ignored the failure of police or prosecutors to comply with such laws when adjudicating cases.
Lengthy pretrial detention was not limited to activists. State-run media reported that in 2018, 230 persons were detained or held in custody beyond the stipulated time limits.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: There is no such right. Persons arrested or detained may request the agency responsible review the decision. If an arrest or detention is deemed improper by the agency, the individual may be eligible for compensation.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary and lay assessors, but the judiciary was effectively under the control of the CPV, through the Ministry of Public Security. During the year there were credible reports political influence, endemic corruption, bribery, and inefficiency strongly distorted the judicial system. Most, if not all, judges were members of the CPV and underwent screening by the CPV and local officials during their selection process to determine their suitability for the bench. Judges are reappointed every five years, following review by party officials. The party’s authority was particularly notable in high-profile cases and when authorities charged a person with corruption, challenging or harming the party or state, or both. Defense lawyers routinely complained that, in many cases, it appeared judges made a determination of guilt prior to the trial.
There continued to be credible reports that authorities pressured defense lawyers not to take religious or democracy activists as clients and questioned their motivations for doing so. Authorities also restricted, harassed, arrested, and disbarred human rights attorneys who represented political activists. While the new penal code maintained the requirement for attorneys to violate attorney-client privilege in cases relating to national security or other serious crimes, it did away with such requirements for other, less serious offenses.
On July 2, Khanh Hoa province’s police investigation agency filed charges of “tax evasion” against lawyer Tran Vu Hai and his wife and prohibited them from leaving their residence in Hanoi. The Ministry of Public Security then denied Hai’s request to defend imprisoned activist Truong Duy Nhat on this ground (see section 1.b.). This charge also enabled the police to search Hai’s office and confiscate sensitive documents related to his defense of human rights activists, to include Truong Duy Nhat. On November 15, a court in Nha Trang sentenced noted human rights attorney Tran Vu Hai to 12-15 months of house arrest for tax evasion.
By law authorities must request the local bar association, legal aid centers, or the Vietnamese Fatherland Front (VFF) to appoint an attorney for criminal cases involving juveniles, individuals with mental or physical disabilities, and persons formally charged with capital crimes.
While the constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, this right was not evenly enforced. The law states that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Defendants’ right to prompt, detailed information about the charges against them was rarely respected. Defendants have the right to a timely trial, and public trials generally were open to the public, but in sensitive cases, judges closed trials or strictly limited attendance.
Authorities generally upheld the right of defendants to be present at their trial. The court sometimes denied suspects the right to their own choice of attorney and assigned one. The criminal code permits defendants to be seated adjacent to their defense attorney, although this is not standard practice. Defendants have the right to communicate with a lawyer if they are on trial for a criminal charge that could result in a 15-year or longer sentence, including capital cases.
Although the defense has the right to cross-examine witnesses, there were multiple instances in which neither defendants nor their lawyers knew which witnesses would be called, nor were they allowed to cross-examine witnesses or challenge statements against them. In political trials, neither defendants nor their attorneys were allowed to examine or review evidence relied upon by the prosecution. A defendant has the right to present a defense, but the law does not expressly state the defendant has the right to call witnesses. Judges presiding over politically sensitive trials often did not permit defense lawyers and defendants to exercise their legal rights.
The law stipulates the spoken and written language of criminal proceedings is Vietnamese, but the state provides interpretation if participants in a criminal procedure use another spoken or written language. The law does not specify whether such services are free of charge.
Courts use an inquisitorial system, in which the judge plays the primary role of asking questions and ascertaining facts in a trial. Authorities permitted foreign diplomats to observe via closed-circuit television three high-profile trials. On August 19, diplomats observed a trial on human trafficking, and one regular criminal trial during the year, including three involving individuals charged under national security articles. In most of the trials, defense attorneys were given time to address the court and question their clients, but they could not call witnesses or examine prosecutors’ evidence. In other trials involving individuals charged under national security articles, judges occasionally silenced defense lawyers who were making arguments on behalf of their clients in court. Convicted persons have the right to at least one appeal.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
NGOs estimated that as of November authorities held between 100 and 260 individuals for political or religious reasons. According to an NGO, from January 1 to September 25, authorities detained 19 and convicted 31 individuals (most detained in previous years) who were exercising internationally recognized human rights, such as freedom of expression and association. The majority of these convictions were linked to blogging and street protests against draft laws on Special Economic Administration Zones and cybersecurity. Other convictions included individuals blogging and protesting build-operate-transfer toll roads who were charged with “disrupting public order;” a blogger calling for a demonstration during the February Hanoi Summit who was charged with “making, storing, spreading, or propagating information, materials, or items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”; and a Degar Protestant in Central Highlands who was charged with “destroying the unity policy.”
Prison officials often held political prisoners in small groups separate from the general inmate population and treated them differently. Some political prisoners enjoyed better material conditions but were subject to more psychological harassment. In other cases, political prisoners were subject to harassment from both prison authorities and other inmates, the latter sometimes at the instigation of officials. In many cases, political prisoners’ daily schedules were different from those of the general inmate population and they were not afforded the opportunity to leave their cells for work or interaction with the general prison population. Officials often subjected political prisoners to more extended periods of solitary confinement than the three months given to other prisoners. Family members of Nguyen Van Hoa, for example, reported Hoa was subject to solitary confinement from May to September as a disciplinary measure.
Rations appeared to be more limited for political prisoners than others. Former political prisoners reported they received only two small bowls of rice and vegetables daily, often mixed with foreign matter, such as insects or stones. Family members of many imprisoned activists who were or became ill claimed medical treatment was inadequate and resulted in long-term health complications.
Democracy rights activist Nguyen Trung Ton suffered from kidney disease and an untreated bacterial infection in his leg, which his family said was the result of an injury inflicted by prison guards. Prison authorities refused to allow Ton access to medication sent by his family. The family of activist Le Dinh Luong, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” told foreign embassy officials that prison officials were denying Luong access to imported medicine to manage his heart condition, stating prisoners require local prescriptions for such medication but then not granting Luong access to a physician who could write such a prescription. Luong spent four months in solitary confinement at the Nghe An Provincial Detention Center in Nghe An province, with no access to sunlight, but has been returned to his regular cell.
Prison authorities often held political prisoners far from their homes, making family visits difficult, and routinely did not inform family members of prison transfers. On January 3, Le Dinh Luong’s wife went to visit her husband only to discover he had been transferred from Nghi Kim detention center in Nghe An province to Nam Ha detention center in Ha Nam province, about 190 miles away. Also in January, Nguyen Trung Truc was transferred from a detention center in Quang Binh to Detention Center No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province, but his family was not informed until after the move.
Ministry of Public Security officials sometimes prohibited political prisoners from reading and writing.
Political prisoners and their family members reported prison authorities at times revoked, reduced, denied, or delayed visitation rights and did not allow visitors to provide items to family members. Truong Minh Duc’s wife reported detention officials in Thanh Chuong, Nghe An province repeatedly intervened in her conversations with her husband any time the conversation was not directly related to family issues. When the pair attempted to discuss the well-being of other political prisoners, their meeting was abruptly ended. Prison officials often prematurely ended or shortened meetings that deviated from a discussion of family matters.
During the year many political prisoners held hunger strikes to protest maltreatment. In May prison authorities subjected Nguyen Van Hoa to 10 days in solitary confinement with leg cuffs, followed by six additional months’ confinement, reportedly because he refused to sign blank sheets of paper, believing that authorities would fabricate a confession. Between June 10 and July 21, Hoa and other inmates went on a hunger strike at Prison No. 6, Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province, to protest prison officials’ decision to remove fans from the cells during the hottest days of the summer.
Foreign diplomatic representatives conducted supervised visits to several political prisoners at both temporary and long-term detention facilities. The visits were monitored and did not afford the opportunity for independent assessment of the prisoners or prison conditions.
As in previous years, courts continued handing down severe sentences to individuals whose activism appeared to be well organized or linked to overseas groups. In July, for example, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran Long Phi to 10 and eight years, respectively, in prison on charges of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.” Among the most frequent charges against activists was “producing, storing, disseminating, or communicating information and documents against the state.” Under this charge, at least six individuals received sentences of between five- and eight-years’ imprisonment.
These cases are well documented by NGOs and the media. There were likely dozens of other arrests and convictions that may be related to the exercise of internationally recognized human rights. Among these were likely cases involving Degar Protestants in the Central Highlands, H’mong in the Northwest Highlands, and individuals in remote areas of the country, making it difficult to verify information.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
The constitution provides that any person illegally arrested and detained, charged with a criminal offense, investigated, prosecuted, brought to trial, or subjected to judgment enforcement illegally has the right to compensation for material and mental damages and restoration of honor. The law provides a mechanism for pursuing a civil action to redress or remedy abuses committed by authorities. Administrative and civil courts heard civil suits under procedures similar to those in criminal cases and using members of the same body of judges and people’s assessors to adjudicate the cases. Administrative and civil courts continued to be vulnerable to corruption and outside influence, lack of independence, and inexperience. Very few victims of government abuse sought or successfully received redress or compensation through the court system.
The government continued to prohibit class action lawsuits against government ministries, thus rendering ineffective joint complaints from land rights petitioners.
By law all land belongs to the government (“all the people of Vietnam”) which has granted considerable decision-making authority for land pricing, allocation, and reclamation to local people’s committees and people’s councils, which in turn has contributed to unfair business practices and corruption.
There were numerous reports of clashes between local residents and authorities at land expropriation sites during the year. Disputes regarding land expropriation for development projects remained a significant source of public grievance. Many whose land the government forcibly seized protested at government offices for failure to address their complaints. Some coercive land seizures resulted in violence and injury to state officials and residents. There were also reports development companies hired suspected plainclothes police officers and “thugs” to enforce government seizures by intimidating and threatening residents or breaking into their homes. Authorities arrested and convicted multiple land rights protesters on charges of “resisting persons on duty” or “causing public disorder.”
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, home, or correspondence, but the government did not consistently protect these rights and at times violated them.
By law security forces need public prosecutorial orders to enter homes forcibly, but Ministry of Public Security officers regularly entered homes, particularly of activists, without legal authority. They often intimidated residents with threats of repercussions for failure to allow entry.
On April 19, a group of men in plain clothes broke into a house-church in Tan Dinh commune, Lang Giang district, Bac Giang province, and attacked the seven Protestants worshipping at that location. The worshippers were able to identify some local police officers among their assailants. There were other reports of police officers, in plain clothes or uniforms, breaking into houses without warrants. There were cases where it apparently had nothing to do with political or sensitive reasons. On April 10 at around 10:30, nearly a dozen persons broke into the house of Le Thi Ngoc at Thuan Giao ward, Thuan An town, Binh Duong province, searched the house without a warrant, and took away her cell phone without providing a report (as required by law).
Without legal warrants, authorities regularly opened and censored targeted private mail; confiscated packages and letters; and monitored telephone conversations, email, text messages, blogs, and fax transmissions. The government cut telephone lines and interrupted cellphone and internet services of several political activists and their family members.
The Ministry of Public Security maintained a system of household registration and block wardens to monitor unlawful activity. While this system was less intrusive than in the past, the ministry closely monitored individuals engaged in or suspected of engaging in unauthorized political activities.